1. Like being stuck in a deep well with a boulder tied to your ankle.
“It’s crippling. Imagine being stuck in a deep well with a boulder tied to your ankle. As you try to climb up towards the light, there will always be something holding you back.”
2. Like that feeling when you slip on ice and haven’t yet hit the frozen sidewalk…all day long.
“That feeling when you slip on ice and haven’t yet hit the frozen sidewalk…all day long.”
3. Like you’re drowning while seeing the surface but never being able to swim to the top.
“Drowning while seeing the surface but never being able to swim to the top because the harder you try, the further down you fall.”
4. Like that feeling when you touch your pocket and you don’t feel your phone, but all the time and about everything.
“That feeling when you touch your pocket and you don’t feel your phone, but all the time and about everything.”
5. Like that feeling when you lean back in your chair too far and you almost fall back.
“You know that feeling when you lean back in your chair too far and you almost fall back? That feeling of ‘Oh holy shit’ but for sometimes hours on end without any particular reason at all.”
6. Like someone is behind you calling you out on all of your mistakes.
“Anxiety is feeling like someone is behind you calling you out on all of your mistakes. It’s really annoying in social situations because it can just be overwhelming sometimes, but I’ve personally been learning to control it recently. I’ve learned that the best way to deal with anxiety is to just be able to snap back to reality and calm down. Nobody really cares about what your doing with your hands, nobody is laughing at you, and people make mistakes. Understanding myself and people around me was key in order for me to control my anxiety.”
7. Like I have a boulder sitting on my chest and I can’t breathe deep enough.
“For me, when I wake up in the morning it feels like I have a boulder sitting on my chest and I can’t breathe deep enough. My brain is constantly running through thoughts—it’s like a flip book of continually changing pages but they never add up to make a cohesive story. It’s thinking about something that happened two weeks ago that was maybe a little bit awkward and agonizing over every little detail of that moment. It’s not sleeping soundly because your brain won’t turn off. It’s knowing that you’re always going to be exhausted because you cannot stop. It’s being afraid of things while you know being afraid of them is completely irrational. It’s being in my head all the time and not being able to enjoy the moment. Basically, it’s terrible, and getting help is the best thing someone with anxiety can do.”
8. Like a video game where there’s ominous music playing.
“It’s like in a video game where there’s ominous music playing because you are about to run into a boss or something bad is happening. Except there is no boss. There is no threat. Yet the ominous music keeps playing.”
9. Like one of those dreams where you can’t completely open your eyes.
“I describe it as having one of those dreams where you can’t completely open your eyes.”
10. Like you can’t turn off your brain.
“Yup, this is the core of anxiety; the inability to turn your brain off from thinking, and putting a negative spin to, every possible action, reaction, and thought. You’re always thinking/expecting that you messed up, that everyone is annoyed or upset with you, or that things will turn out bad.”
11. Like a living nightmarish hellscape.
“Pair this with paranoia that people are out to get you and it becomes scary. Pair it with a brain that incessantly tells you, from the moment you wake to moments before you fade off to tortuous sleep in which you get to relive your every failure and also live out your worse fears, nightly, ‘Well everything is fucked up. You are fucked up. Nothing will ever be right again,’ and anxiety becomes a living nightmarish hellscape.”
12. Like constantly worrying that you’ll be hit by a car.
“It can range from such outlandish ideas such as being kidnapped or murdered by a serial killer to something as tame as being hit by a car to the point that ‘I think I’m just gonna stay inside. I’ll be safe here, in the house, where nobody can get to me.’ and I have to do mental gymnastics to convince myself statistically I’ll be fine, go outside.
This is probably the textbook definition of agoraphobia, but I’m still in denial. ‘LOL I leave the house at least once a month, it can’t be that bad.’”
13. Like your body is overwhelmed with fear and you can’t move.
“Only way I’ve ever thought to describe it is like an intense fear. Your body is overwhelmed with fear and you can’t move or communicate easily. It makes me just want to curl up in a blanket burrito until it passes.”
14. Like your brain is perpetually scanning the stations trying to find something to be anxious about.
“It’s like your brain is perpetually scanning the stations trying to find something to be anxious about, especially if you’re having a relatively anxiety-free day.
Oh, and it is a never-ending series of catastrophic ‘what ifs’ that are self-curated and terrifying.”
15. Like there’s no way out of your own head.
“No way out of your own head. You go over the same thoughts over and over again hoping you’ll be able to get over it once you think it through, but you never can.
The only way to make it a bit easier is to occupy yourself with outside content. And that does not work every time.
It’s often holding hands with insecurity. The repetitive thoughts tend to revolve around (or be a consequence of) the impression you’re not good enough. That you’re replaceable. Less valuable to dear people than they are to you.”
16. Like the feeling you get right before causing a traffic accident.
“Ever catch yourself right before causing a traffic accident?
You start to change lanes into another car, or start to turn without seeing a pedestrian. You do see them, so you correct the maneuver, but your heart pounds, your mind fills with an image of what your inattention almost caused. For an instant, you are filled with adrenaline and shame.
Anxiety is having that same response to neutral events.”
17. Like falling off a flight of stairs.
“You know that feeling when you step off of stairs and you think there’s still one stair below you but you have that heart sinking moment where you think you stepped too far? Imagine that feeling like 24/7.”
18. Like hearing a dripping pipe in your home but you can’t figure out where it’s coming from.
“I’ve had all types. Sometimes it’s like hearing a dripping pipe in your home but you can’t figure out where it’s coming from. Sometimes it’s your mind coming up with problems or imagining the worst case scenarios. Sometimes it’s like closing your eyes on a upward traveling roller coaster, but you never feel it crest the top and fall.”
19. Like every minor inconvenience is a major problem.
“Your brain also analyses everything and comes up with the worst possible conclusions. Every minor inconvenience is a major problem and just going on about your normal day, like driving or taking the bus, speaking to colleagues, even showering…can be overwhelming. Honestly, it is exhausting living like this, so weekends, I mostly spend in bed trying to regain my strength.”
20. Like that feeling you get when playing a horror video game where the killer monster is trying to kill you while you desperately run away.
“You ever try to hold your breath underwater as a kid as long as you can and then go a little too deep before panicking as you desperately swim back up as fast as you can to get air? Imagine that feeling you get for a few second lasting 24/7 on top of that feeling you get when playing a horror video game where the killer monster is trying to kill you while you desperately run away. Then later you feel stupid because that thing you were panicking about for 6 days was something you were able to resolve in 5 minutes or less.”
21. Like everything is always going wrong, all at once.
“Oh yeah. I could be looking in the mirror, brushing my teeth in the morning, and be thinking this: Is that a wrinkled? Was that there before? Am I aging prematurely? What do I look like compared to other women my age? (look at a million airbrushed pictures online) Okay, I think I have a wrinkle, how can I fix it?! (researches online tons of expensive creams) I don’t think I can afford this! And will it get so bad that I need plastic surgery?! How can I afford this?! I would need to get another job probably! Am I underpaid?! What are other people making in my area!? (researches online) Oh my god, I am underpaid! Is it because I’m not as good at my job as I think I am!? Do my coworkers think that, too!? What do I need to do better at work!?
And on and on, at the worst times.”
22. Like you’re constantly in chaos.
“Also anxiety can physically manifest itself. The most common thing is stomach indigestion, always tired due to an overactive mind, your back and shoulder area feel tense due to always being on edge and in panic mode, I personally also get headaches as well and my appetite fluctuates.
Because we spend so much time in our head we start projecting our thoughts outward onto the world and it starts to become our reality. And simply being told something isn’t true or sometimes seeing something isn’t going to happen or true doesn’t break the echo chamber.
I have a combination of GAD and unspecified depression and life can be hell, this last couple weeks have been rough. I constantly question why I do things, I go over everything I’ve done and said throughout a day and think of all the repercussions. It doesn’t even need to be negative, it just has to be something I question.
When I said Hi to X, was I bitchy? Was I rude? They didn’t respond did I do something wrong? They don’t like me? Fine screw them I don’t need them. Wait that’s not fair to be that way towards them maybe they were having a bad day. No they were talking to Y and Z, so I must of did something wrong. I’m done with people I’m just I don’t want to talk to anyone anymore, no one cares anyways.
This is a sample of what it kind of feels like and how something so small spirals. Another thing I do is I have ‘domino thoughts.’ Essentially when one negative thing happens or one thought sticks, I start to grab every related thing I can think of up. I asked out a girl recently and got rejected, normally no big deal, but in this case I got real down on myself. It wasn’t just this girl rejecting me, I thought of every rejection in my life, not just dating wise, and started to question my worth and figure out what is wrong with me.
I constantly think my best friend, who is super understanding and knows about my issues, is going to reject me or finally be done with me so I keep overreacting. Doesn’t text in a certain time? I made her mad, she doesn’t want to be friends anymore. I keep using her as a support so I’ve been feeling like I only use her when I’m having problems and I’m a shitty friend, I’ve talked to her multiple times about this and still after all the reassurance, I still have the same feelings.
I hate it, couple it with my depression and lack of a good doctor, I hate it. I constantly feel like I’m in chaos. The worst part is any time I manage to not let my anxiety effect me, when I don’t overthink and I stay in a good mood and nothing bad happens, as soon as I get alone everything unwinds and I’m sucked into a feeling that perpetuates the anxiety. Sorry for the wall.”
23. Like you can’t stop worrying until you get drunk, at which point you start worrying that everyone can tell you’re drunk.
“I’ll be at a bar with friends having a merry old time, 2 drinks past tipsy. Then, out of nowhere in the middle of the conversation, I need to leave. It’s like a fight or flight reflex, suddenly I’m sober, wondering if these people even want me to be here. Next thing I know I’ve been quiet for too long and am not in the conversation anymore. This reassures me that they aren’t actually friends. I’m just some imposter that has weaseled my way into their good time. So I excuse myself to take a piss, finish my beer on the way. Before heading back to the group, I stop by the bar for 2 shots and a fresh beer. I down the 2 shots. I need to get drunk. If I can get drunk, I can relax, be a part of the group again. Of course they like me, we all came out together. We hang out together all the time. I’ll go smoke outside and let myself calm down. Everything will be ok. Oh shit, I’m starting to feel drunk. I can’t let them see me being drunk. Oh fuck, they already don’t like me. I’ve already weaseled myself into their fun night, now I’m going to ruin it by being a drunken asshole. Ok, I’ll act sober. They come meet me outside. Shit. Hey. Lol. Haha. Yeah. Fuck I don’t even want to be here. Why did I force myself to come out. They can tell you don’t want to be here. God, they hate you. No no, you’re just in your own head again. Get out of your fucking head. Oh shit, need to get back into the conversation. I wonder how drunk they are. I need to be just slightly less drunk than them. Or I can pretend alcohol doesn’t have a real effect on me. I mean, that’s cool right. God you’re so fake. And, they know it too, that’s why they don’t like you. Shut-up. Pay attention to the conversation. Rejoin. Hey, better go get another beer. Good, a break. I can breathe. Man, everyone in this place seems to be having a good time. I hate this. You have to pretend you’re having a good time. You have to. Yeah, but look at you, why would any of these beautiful people want your fat, ugly ass here. I’m not that fat. Yes. You are. And what’s worse, you have no personality. I’ll have another bud light. You’re just not a good person. No one knows who you really are and if they did, they’d stay away from you. You’ll be lonely forever. Sing this song in your head. Rejoin group, hey guys. I love this song. We should go play pool, I saw a table open up.”
24. Like you suddenly realized you forgot to do a homework assignment that was due the next day…but you feel that all the time.
“Ever wake up one morning, feeling fine, then you suddenly remember that there was something important you had to do the day before? Like a homework assignment that was due the next day or something. That sudden thump of ‘awww fuck’ to the solar plexus is kinda what it’s like, but that feeling pulsates all day every day, and gets worse under certain circumstances. Because there’s no ‘reason’ for the feeling (i.e., no missed homework assignment you can point to as the culprit) your brain starts trying to fill in the gaps with possible causes. So you start thinking ‘I must be sensing that my girlfriend is on the verge of ending things, that’s why I’m like this!’ and you concoct an evidence-free but plausible narrative of your life that makes that seem likely, or ‘Christ, it just hit me that my parents are going to die, and probably within the next 15 years if I’m lucky, I can’t cope with that shit!’ or that some other horrible thing that you don’t think you can handle is on its way to you, arriving any minute now!
That’s when you start getting into panic-attack territory, feeling like you’re being buried alive in your own grave. Uncontrollable crying, unable to suck in enough oxygen to fill your lungs, shaking like a shitting dog, heart thumping like there’s a burning man trapped inside you pounding on the wall of your chest with his molten stump. Weird things start to become problems for you; you can’t face going for a shower, for some reason even the thought of walking into the bathroom and getting undressed seems like an impossible task, so you stagnate for weeks or even months. You can’t bear to eat, the act of swallowing food or sitting down for a meal is terrifying, for no obvious reason, as if the moment you avert your attention your entire life will be stolen from behind your back. You need to be extremely tired before you can attempt to go to bed, because it usually feels as though you’re laying down in a coffin waiting for the dirt to be pushed over you. Your world shrinks down to a tiny shoulder-width cell, with everything outside of it too daunting to even think about. So you lose a shit-tonne of weight in a short period of time and get very little sleep. You start to become one of those crazy hermits you see in comedy movies and cartoons, the ones with the full length beards and untrimmed fingernails, hunched over in terror, stinking of weeks’ worth of baked-in sweat, not wanting any kind of contact with the outside world.
With medication, you can get some relief. Once you get a combination of pills that works for you (no mean feat in itself) and once the anxiety chills out a bit, you might start to eat like a pig, both because you’re initially starving from the anxiety and also because the medications tend to have increased appetite as a side-effect. Then you turn into a comfort-eating fat fucker like me. If the anxiety is largely under control, depression is your new friend if it wasn’t one already. Funnily enough, many of the symptoms cross over—can’t face showering, don’t wanna leave the house for months at a time, don’t wanna see anyone, etc.
Everyone is different of course; this is just what I’ve experienced.”
25. Like you’re constantly replaying everything that ever went wrong.
“I’m walking in the halls in school, daydreaming, probably thinking about my next class or something. Suddenly, I pass an acquaintance, and we make eye contact for half a second, but then I dart my eyes away. No big deal, right? Just a quick pass.
But my heart is racing. I quickly think, what did I do wrong? Why did I look away? Are they going to think I was being rude? That I don’t like them? Should I have waved? Do I need to explain myself?
As I enter my next class a few minutes later, I’m still thinking about this. My thoughts are becoming more self hating. Why can’t you just be normal? Loser. This is why you never make any new friends. This is why you don’t do shit on the weekends. You aren’t social. What if no one likes you? They’re just pretending to be friends with you, as if they’re doing a good deed, helping the needy.
I finally manage to focus on my class work, but I’m still high strung. In a state of over analyzation, every social interaction for the next 15 minutes to an hour becomes like this. It adds up. By the end of the school day, I’m exhausted from the consistent feeling of not being good enough.
I’m sitting at home now, not doing much. Constantly replaying everything that went wrong that day. You’re trash for not waving back. You’re stupid for stuttering that one time. You made that entire conversation awkward by making a self deprecating joke. Did you see that LOOK of confusion he gave you? You try to fit in, overcompensate by being loud, but everyone can see through you, fake bitch.
Memories from days, weeks, months ago, similar to these, start to pop back up. I can’t stop thinking about it. If I’m not making myself busy or mindlessly scrolling the internet, these thoughts always come back. I wish they didn’t.
I guess this is more social anxiety, sorry if it’s long.”
26. Like there’s a constant knot in your stomach, even when nothing is wrong.
“Just a constant knot in your stomach, even when nothing is wrong. But then you think, I am forgetting something but my stomach remembers? That was a joke, wasn’t funny. Why did I say that? I’m so dumb.
3 months later
Why did I say that joke that one time, it was not funny.
I need to make a phone call today, I’ll get to it. Deep breaths, it’s just a call. Come on, its been two hours. This is the only work item to do today, then I can go home. But I don’t want to go home early, my wife works too hard to see me home before her. I’ll do it after lunch. Its already 4:30, no one answered, thank god. I’ll do it tomorrow.”
27. Like the constant feeling that the other shoe is about to drop.
“It’s the constant feeling that the other shoe is about to drop, but you have no idea what the other shoe even is, or why it would drop, but you feel certain that it’s going to. Intellectually, you are aware that most likely nothing is going to happen, and you should relax, but you just cannot shake the feeling.
After many years of this, it is tiring and painful. Like you never ever get the chance to relax, even when you’re physically relaxing.
The worst is when you’ve temporarily forgotten you get anxious, then it occurs to you what a good day you’re having, then you suddenly realize you could have an anxiety attack that would ruin your good day, then you do, because you thought you might. Not because anything actually happened, but because you thought about it.
And it can go on like that for years.”
28. Like there’s a little voice in your head that constantly whispers negativity.
“Anxiety = paranoia, basically. A little (metaphorical) voice in your head constantly whispers negativity—a bit like how I imagine schizophrenia.
On my way out the door: ‘your mustache looks ridiculous. You look fat in that shirt. I can see your moobs. You’re balding and you’re gonna get judged for it.
Standing in line at a store: ‘Don’t look over there, that guy will think you’re looking at him and think you’re weird. Don’t stand like that. Don’t do that with your lip. Pull your shirt down over your fat arse.”
Anywhere in tront of people I don’t know: ‘EVERYONE’S LOOKING AT YOU. THEY ALL THINK YOU LOOK LIKE A FUCKING RETARD. YOU DON’T BELONG HERE. THEY’RE ALL BETTER THAN YOU. YOU SHOULD JUST GO HOME SO THESE PEOPLE DON’T HAVE TO LOOK AT YOU. I KNOW YOU SHOWERED TWICE BUT I BET YOU STILL SMELL LIKE PISS AND DORITOS.’
…and lots more. These are just examples. Add on to that the sensation of someone tying a belt around your chest and pulling it real tight.
What’s anxiety like? Fear. Pure, unadulterated, inexplicable fear. You know it’s baseless and you have nothing to be afraid of but you can’t stop it.”
29. Like there is a cinderblock on my chest.
“I’m sure everyone is different, but when I am anxious I feel like there is a cinderblock on my chest, I get dizzy, my brain seems to go through thousands of checklists at a time. If i can’t put together a checklist or plan to respond to the situation, I just start crying. Today for example, I went to the gym and to check in, you swipe your member card. If you don’t have your member card, you can tell them your name and they manually check you in. I thought I had left mine at home and didn’t want to ask the same girl that had to manually check me in last time I forgot my card have to check me in again. I was terrified that she would think I was an idiot or annoying. I told myself that if she were there, I would leave or spend the $5 for a replacement card even though I knew I didn’t need a new card. This isn’t that big of a deal, but I just wonder what it would be like to just walk into a place and ask for help with something so small and not make a big deal about it in my head.”
30. Like someone is stepping on your chest.
“It’s like someone stepping on your chest. You just can’t take a normal breath. But you know there’s nothing there. Like your skin itches when you think and you’re never not thinking. Every thought is an issue and sometimes you care too much or not at all. There’s no in between.”